Crafting mummy

There are many reasons that I chose secondary teaching rather than primary, when in my final year at uni, I realised I had better plan to do something with my life. Toilet trained children was pretty high on the list of reasons, as was not having to teach important things like maths which are way out of my comfort zone. Teaching secondary also meant that (by and large) the kids weren’t going to try and hug me or hold my hand and lastly, most importantly, in a secondary setting I was never going to need to be creative with pipe cleaners, glitter and finger paints.

When I gazed down at my little baby boy in those early months, having a child that could walk, talk and enjoy activities seemed a million miles away. It hadn’t at that point occurred to me that by having my own child, I had automatically signed myself up for afternoons of hand printing, Play-doh and trying to make something which looks handmade, decorative and identifiable out of card board and crepe paper. I had been kind of hoping that by sending him to nursery three days a week, he could do all the creative (messy) stuff there and I might be off the hook. But little man doesn’t go to nursery in the holidays. So, it was with a certain amount of dread two weekends ago that I announced to my husband that we needed some supplies from The Range and piled us all in the car to queue up for the tiniest and most badly organised car park in Essex.

I marched us towards the arts and crafts section and was immediately overwhelmed. I figured there would be an aisle, maybe two, of paints and pens and I would just choose the ones suitable for 18 – 24 months. Maybe a pad of paper and some paint brushes or even some glitter if I was feeling brave. Instead, I was confronted by about the half the shop. I quickly dispatched the husband and little man off on a pointless errand, lest they see my bewilderment and start to question my competence in the creativity department (ooh, go and see if they have pigs ears for the dogs!) and tried to look like I knew what I was looking for.

It was nearly Easter, so after a couple of laps of the aisles, I settled for finger paints, brushes, paper, glitter, some polystyrene eggs you could decorate yourself, an ‘Easter bumper pack’ which had ludicrously coloured mini pom-poms, pipe cleaners and sticky back Easter shapes in it – hey, I needed at least one thing that wouldn’t go wrong – and some craft glue. I decided against the Play-doh as it was for three years up and little man still likes to check out new things with his mouth. Plus his key worker at nursery had mentioned it was ‘super easy’ to make your own which it wouldn’t matter if he nibbled a bit. She will henceforth be referred to as ‘the lady who tells lies’.

Once we got home, I found I was quite excited by all this and was rather looking forward to getting started. Little man had brought home an Easter picture to colour and decorate, so I thought we would start with that and the finger paints, may be do a little hand printing. So I strapped little man in the high chair, took the tray off and presented him with 3 little bowls of paint. It was fab – little man clearly knew what to do (thank you nursery staff) and got stuck in straightaway. Within minutes the picture was done and he moved on to some handprints. We made several pictures and looked very pleased with ourselves. I wiped him down and made us cheese on toast as kind of reward lunch. How awesome were we?!

Fast forward two weeks and Good Friday seemed like a crafting kind of day, so filled with renewed confidence, we got out the polystyrene eggs, paint, glitter and the bumper craft kit. I spread it out on the table, like a great big creative feast. Little man looked really interested in proceedings and following on from our previous success I decided to start with paint and the eggs. Here is a list of things I didn’t realise:
1. Finger paints don’t work on polystyrene.
2. 18 month olds can’t hold an egg and paint it.
3. When eggs are covered in paint and roll off the table they will inevitably land on a dog.
4. Dogs like eggs covered in paint.
5. 18 month olds scream when a dog carries off their egg. They simultaneously bang their paint covered hands on the table when this happens.
6. Finger paint flying off hands can travel a great distance.

I didn’t give up though. After retrieving the egg, wiping the table, chair, wall, child and the back of a dog, we worked together to paint 2 eggs and then covered them in glitter. They looked appallingly bad. Like a fairy had thrown up on them. So, we moved onto the craft pack, which went better. After all, how could even I mess up peeling off sticky backed shapes and helping little man to pop them on card? I then decided we were ready for the mini pom-poms, which we added to our card. No fucking clue what to do with pipe cleaners though. May Google it later. Then came my final mistake – I let little man handle the glitter. Here is some more stuff I now know:
1. Glitter looks yummy.
2. It isn’t.
3. You can removed glitter from a child’s tongue with a wipe.
4. You can’t remove it from a dog’s tongue with ANYTHING.
5. Glitter will be found everywhere now (I don’t yet know for how, long, but I’m guessing Christmas wouldn’t be an unreasonable bet).
6. Glitter can get through a t-shirt, body suit and into a nappy with ease.

Is there a moral to this story? I’m not really sure. I feel the pressure of mummy hood to continue to fight the creative battle. Perhaps I need to spend more time in my school’s art department? I’ll think about it. In the meantime, I’m off to Google what to do with pipe cleaners…

Sod’s Law mummy

Big week at work this last one. From that sentence and the post title, you can guess how this is going to go.

My Head teacher pays me an extra allowance to oversee Careers Education and this week had Year 11 entirely off timetable, dedicated to helping them make their post 16 choices (no pressure). As a part time teacher the planning of this week, involving no less than 6 educational visits, 8 guest speakers and activities involving the school oh-so-reliable ICT network, has dominated my non- teaching time since returning to school in September.

And for once I was ready. You couldn’t see my desk for trip risk assessments. All the student permissions slips were in (oh yes, 148 of them,including the vacant boy in 11T) and I had even remembered to order packed lunches for the Free School Meal students from the canteen (which turned out to be pointless as even those entitled to get one for free would rather bring their own lunch than eat what the canteen put forward as a picnic lunch). As long as the coaches turned up, the guest speakers didn’t cancel (and therefore leave me in standing in front of the whole group with half an hour and nothing to say) and none of the staff were ill, the weeks activities were ready to go. My parents were coming to baby sit little man, so I could go in for one extra day to my usual working week. Sorted.


On Monday, I got call from little man’s nursery key worker. Slight temperature, probably teething, nothing to worry about. Permission given for Calpol. Didn’t think much more of it.

Got home with him Monday night and then it began….

Little man is a good sleeper. 7-7, no probs. But Monday night he woke at 8, 9.15, 11.15, 1am….you get the picture. Needless to say by 6am, I wasn’t especially adept at forming a coherent sentence, let alone feeling ready to make sure that 148 children got on the right bus to right place at 9am. Despite the broken sleep, little man seemed okay. I left my parents with instructions to text me every couple of hours and even managed to leave the house properly dressed with my own packed lunch (lest I end up eating something the canteen prepared). A good day was had; the students all spent the day at a college of their choice and, more importantly, we brought them all back to school (slightly tense moment on one trip where the coaches were getting ready to depart when a science teacher realised they were missing a couple, but no one told on us back in school).

Then I got home and my heart broke.

I have never seen little man looking so sorry for himself. Curled up in my dad’s lap, puffy eyes, glazed expression, clutching his little blankie. The guilt was horrendous. I rang the doctor and amazingly (god bless my surgery) got an appointment for 6pm. By 7pm, we were in paediatric assessment at the local hospital, due to spiking temperatures and elevated heart and respiratory rate. Despite reassurances from my GP and the ward sister who checked little man in that this was just a precaution, my guilt levels rose and rose.

The first thing we were told about was the need for a urine sample. I wondered how they went about getting this from a one year old – some kind of high tech device no doubt. Wrong. We were presented with a plastic cup and instructed to ‘catch as much as you can’. I was strongly reminded, as I sat for no less than 4 hours staring at my son’s ‘winky woo’ and holding out the cup, of all those hours and days starting at our boy dog’s penis when we were house training him all those summers ago, waiting for him to cock his leg.

The next thing was the need to hydrate him as much as possible. Bearing in mind that we had arrived at hospital at bedtime and he had a sore throat, little man was in no mood to do anything we wanted him to. This combination led to me, quite literally, having to torture my child. I was presented with a syringe and told to squirt in as much water as I could. So, wanting nothing more than to sleep, little man (who is now naked, in order to do the wee catching) is being woken every 5 minutes by his mummy forcing a plastic syringe in his mouth while assuring him that she loves him.

All of this was made even more delightful by the family in the cubicle next to us, who had obviously been strapped for childcare in an emergency and had brought their 3 year old son along with them. The 3 year old was acting in the way you would expect a 3 year old to act at 9.30pm, in a strange place while his brother was getting all the attention. And it was fine. I actually thought the kid was doing really well. And he wasn’t making half as much noise as his mother who was constantly telling him off, using expletives and ended the evening by telling him to shut the fuck up. Nice.

Feeling lucky and relieved, we were discharged at 11pm armed with medicines and assurance that his chest was clear and heart rate had levelled. Unfortunately, I was now not feeling quite so bright…

The rest of the week passed by in a haze of snot (little man’s), coughing fits (both of us) and a wide variety of child and adult medicines. I managed to get into school every day, but had to leave early twice so hubby could then get into work for some of the afternoon and evening. Any other week, I could have taken the whole week off to be with him, but I felt completely torn between leaving my colleagues in the shit at school and my child in the snot at home. Sod’s Law working mummy style.

Teacher fail mummy

There are some things that I have become much better at since becoming a mummy. I can go to the toilet at least 3 times quicker, for example. I can change a nappy at lightening speed on the floor of the cafe toilet where there are no change facilities (it used to take a good 10 minutes on a change mat when looking after my poor nephew before I had my son). I am now able to clean the whole downstairs of the house in 30 mins, just in case this is a short nap. Inevitably though, there are things I am now much, much worse at, particularly remembering birthdays (the card is definitely in the post!) and buying everything we need when I go shopping without absent-mindedly putting 4 cauliflowers in the trolley (that was not a fun week food-wise, trust me). This week, I recognised something else I have gotten worse at, which I did not anticipate.

There are many things which our secondary school PSHE curriculum in this country covers that seem to be there to try to make up for a lack of sufficient parenting at home for some of our children (how to look after your pocket money, which foods are healthy and how not to be racist are a few which spring to mind). If at any point the education secretary bothers to find out what PSHE stands for, I wouldn’t be surprised if table manners creeps in there too at some point. Which actually might not be such a bad thing after watching a Year 7 struggle to use her knife and fork at our residential this year. I digress. One such topic which I am teaching and have taught for many years to Year 10 is about preparing for parenthood.

Clearly, the main aim of such lessons is to act as a contraceptive, and thus this topic consists of a quick reminder to NEVER HAVE SEX (ignoring the fact that you know that most of them have sex every time someone has a party, because this is rural Suffolk and apparently there is nothing else to do). This is followed by considering the extensive list of emotional and physical needs children have at different ages, describing the attributes of an effective parent, watching a very depressing DVD of young parents moaning about their lives and finally a financial planning/budgeting exercise so they can see just how much a Bugaboo costs. Up until this year, I was teaching it as someone who didn’t have children and I have realised this term, that actually being a mummy has in no way improved my teaching in this particular area.

Let’s take for example the consideration of an effect parent task which one of my two groups completed last week. A very simple activity. The students are given the outline of a person, clear instructions not to add any genitals to it and have to label it with skills, qualities and attributes of what they consider a ‘good’ parent to have. In previous years I have bounced around the room, praising good ideas, encouraging them to think of a wide range of aspects (what about behaviour boundaries? Any financial requirements? How about the emotional side of things?) until they produced a set of labels that would put any super-mum to shame. This year, I wandered around glancing over shoulders and found myself thinking ‘fuck, that’s a bit unrealistic, isn’t it?’ At the point where I questioned Ellie over exactly why she thought an effective parent needed to not lose their temper, I realised that I was not exactly helping my students to achieve the lesson objective. Teacher fail.

Similarly, the DVD of teenage parents who clearly really wished they had popped a condom on at the crucial moment lost much of it’s contraceptive impact this year too. This was due to afterwards when I was supposed to be leading a discussion on the difficulties the young people had faced, I chose to wax lyrical how amazing it feels to be parent and the pride and love you feel as they grow and develop, instead of pointing out how emotionally and financially unready the teens in the video were to become parents. Serious teacher fail.

The final realisation that perhaps it might be better if someone else taught this stuff (the childless NQT perhaps?) was the concluding lesson about budgeting and financial impacts of having a child (which by the way is seriously simplified, I found that I lost them a bit with working tax credits and child benefit). Instead of re-directing their attention back to the minuscule budget I have given them (minimum wage) whenever they found something adorable but too much money in the Mothercare catalogues (stealthily removed from a local shop in sets of five so as not to attract too much attention), I noticed I had instead been saying things like ‘ooh, yes get that it’s GORGEOUS!’ and ‘JoJo actually do a nicer one than that’. Epic teacher fail.

It is in the nature of teachers to be reflective and self evaluative and so I am glad to have recognised my teacher fails with this group and will endeavour improve for my next group. However, I cannot be to too upset by this. It’s made me recognise that being mummy to little man has shown me that all the logical downsides to parenting that I found only to easy to put to contraceptive use in my lessons before he was born have been melted away by the unconditional love and wonder I feel whenever I look at my little boy.

Music class mummy

Despite my poorly judged insistence before I had little man that I wouldn’t be hanging out at singing groups when I had a baby (not my scene; too cool and independent for all that), I’ve been an avid baby group go-er since he was a few weeks old. NCT drop in mornings, baby sensory, sing-a-long sessions, stay and play, baby swimming lessons, anything to stop me going crazy trapped in a house with a grumpy baby and three dogs who all think it is either time to be walked or time to be fed pretty much all day long.

However, having returned to work part time, I had to make decisions about which ones to stick with, based mostly on my days off and what my mummy friends were thinking of going to this term. I decided to stick with swimming, because little man enjoys it and I signed up for a baby music group on the other free day, which would be a new class for us and for my three other mummy friends who were going to try it out too.

So, after a trying first week back at school, at 9.30 on Friday morning, we arrived at the local community centre ready for our music class. Little man loves anything that makes a loud noise (wooden spoons, shakers, the vacuum cleaner, the dogs, his own lungs) so I was fairly sure this class was going to be a hit. A friend of mine had been to the class the day before and vaguely mentioned it was ‘a bit more structured that other groups’. I didn’t really give her comment much thought. Apart from swimming for obvious reasons, all the baby groups we had been to so far had been pretty relaxed. The babies could roam about if they were mobile, no one minded if your child had a bit of a cry or even a full scale meltdown, nappies were frequently changed in the same room as the class and bottles, breasts and spoonfuls of mushed up food were often being popped into babies mouths as and when.

This class was not like that. At all.

Immediately after a swift and officious introduction from the music class leader (let’s call her Connie) and the sticking of name badges onto the babies (because those were going to stay on), Connie began the session with her three rules.

Yes, that’s right. Rules. For under one year olds.

“Firstly, I do not allow the children to put the instruments into their mouths.”

Shit. Really? How the hell was that going to work? Everything in our house seems to have undergone the ‘in my mouth test’ that little man seems to think is of vital importance. A sideways glance at my friend told me I wasn’t the only one mildly panicked by this rule.

“Secondly, I do not allow the children to move around with the instruments.”

Fair enough. I could cope with this one. Little man’ scrawling technique is such that he can’t hold something and move at the same time and I could see the safety reasoning behind that one. I could see my mummy friends, with slightly more practised crawlers, alarm levels rise again though.

“Thirdly, if any children cry, please take them outside so as not to impact on the enjoyment of the class to others.”

Double shit. Little man cries at most things (when I take something away, make him sit still, when the music stops, etc. etc.) and while it might only be for 20-30 seconds, he is pretty damn loud. Certainly loud enough to impact on the enjoyment of others. I was going to be in and out of the door like a yo-yo.

However, I was massively relieved that sitting still for 45 minutes was not one of her rules. Little man likes to roam and there were lots of interesting things in this hall (stacks of chair, a fire exit and the door mat to name but a few). So, class began.

And it became clear fairly quickly that me and my three friends and our children were not about to become Connie’s star students. By the time we were 20 minutes in, all of us mummies except one, who was holding onto the waistband of her boy’s jeans for dear life, had been sternly told “and babies back on laps!” at least twice. We were nudging each other every 3 minutes to indicate that one of the children had an instrument heading for their mouth and we had all gone outside at least once until the crying stopped (me and little man 3 times after the removal of a tambourine from his mouth, my insistence that he sat on my lap for ‘row your boat’ and because I wouldn’t let him tug on the hair of the baby next to us). The content of the class was great though – use of different instruments, some actions, some lap songs, some movement and different types of music. Little man was having a whale of a time between angry cries and despite the fact that Connie scared the crap out of me, little man seemed transfixed by her.

We rounded off the class with the traditional goodbye song. And then, something happened that made me empathise with my own students like never before.

“Right, homework for this week.”

What the fuck?! Seriously? Little man isn’t even one yet and he has homework. Oh my god. Have I inadvertently become one of those pushy over achieving mums?

“Next week, you must bring in an object to represent the weather. And SOME of you need to practise Sleeping Bunnies.” (There was no doubt in the minds of anyone in the class which SOMEONE’S that would be, as my little man shouted loudly at the the ‘shhhhh’ part of the song and one of my friends boy crawled over to Connie as we sang ‘oh so still’.) Ahhh. So the homework is for both of us. Humph. All four of us mummies stumbled out of the hall and stared at each other while exhaling profusely. That was intense.

Three weeks in and I think we are making slight progress. There was a low point a couple of weeks ago when all of our children repeatedly escaped our clutches at inappropriate moments (“babies back on laps!”) but we only got told off once this week between all four of us. Progress. Sleeping Bunnies remains a challenge especially as little man now knows what happens after the ‘shhhhh’ bit of the song, which causes him to chuckle heartily into the silence each week.

And while I remain fairly terrified of Connie, her rules and being labelled ‘one of the naughty ones’ by the other mothers, it could not be more evident that little man adores Connie. Whenever she demonstrates something he stares at her with an expression of wide eyed glee. She has his complete attention for almost the entire class and he grins at her like she is the most hilarious person he met yet. Perhaps I have something to learn myself here…

Husband mummy?!

In my first blog entry, I mentioned that there are rare occasions when I experience a situation which leaves me acting in a mum-like toward my husband. I’ve tried to write the previous sentence several times by the way and that’s the least wrong sounding I can make it. By mum-like I don’t mean I have to pack him up sandwiches for lunch or wash his socks (incidentally I do both of those, but he mows the lawn and takes the bins out). There’s maybe two or three things he says or does from time to time that make me feel a bit like I’m being called upon to act in a mum type capacity.

One such occurrence presented itself last night in the form of a ‘how do I do that?’ type of question. This one concerned little man’s breakfast the next day as hubby was getting up and spending the day with him and I was off out.

Husband: “What can I give him for breakfast tomorrow? I always give him porridge, what can he have that’s different?”
Me: “What about Weetabix with a bit of fruit?”
Husband: “How am I supposed to make that?”

At this point, I would like to say that husband is not stupid. He has a masters degree and a leadership role in his school. He can get answers right on University Challenge. And yet, I find myself explaining that the way to do this is put Weetabix, fruit and milk in a bowl together. It is, from his point of view, a serious question. It is, from my point of view, like explaining which way up a world map goes to a GCSE student (a career low point, that one).

In situations like this, refraining from any hint of patronising tone is key. Saying “SERIOUSLY?!” in an incredulous tone is a definite no-no (unless of course I wish to endure some minutes of sulking and several pointed comments). On this occasion, I bit my tongue and managed to navigate my way through an answer which didn’t get me into trouble. But you know what? I lied at the start of this blog post. He asks me things like this all the time. Mainly to do with little man, but sometimes to do with the dogs (“How did that bloody dog get into the garden with my slipper?!” FYI, saying “because you left them on the hall floor again” is not the right response) or sometimes to do with preparing a meal (“How am I supposed to keep an eye on the pan and load the dishwasher?” Again, saying “well I bloody well manage it!” is not advisable).

Perhaps it’s me. Perhaps I am unaware that I have very particular ways of doing things and what he really means is: “Tell me the right way to do this, according to you!” And “Why didn’t you move my slippers?” Who knows? (Not me, because I’m too scared to ask!) But surely, there’s only one way to make Weetabix..?

School trip mummy

The first educational visit (school trip) of the year was this week’s achievement. Although planned with military precision at home (well, you will HAVE to drop off and pick up because the trip leaves school at 7am and doesn’t get back until 8.30pm) and school (you get the first aid kits and I will pick up the minibus keys…what do you mean you forgot the first aid kits?) by the time Thursday arrived I was shattered before we even left.

A small class meant taking both the school minibus and my car, with me driving 3 students. Our destination was about 2 hours away and in the interests of preserving the ear drums of the minibus driver and everyone else in the vehicle, I allocated the 3 loudest children to entertain me on the journey along the M25. Our destination was a popular Surrey theme park; ‘educational’ in the loosest possible business studies sense of the word. The class was comprised mainly of girls who argued, fell out and made up with one another as often as my child wants ‘Dear Zoo’ read to him. And it was raining. All the ingredients required for a hellish day.

Miracle one of the day was light traffic.

Miracle two was the sun came out as we left the motorway.

Miracle three was that although the back of my car resembled a hair and make up area at a local college, the girls weren’t that loud and were only moderately bitchy.

Miracle four was completing our tour and educational workshop in record time.

Marvellous! Time for a coffee then, off you go kids!

“What, on our own?”


I work at a small, rural school. It’s nice. (OFSTED Good: Tick) It’s friendly. It’s very small. Everyone knows everyone, both at school and in the villages. ‘Rowdy’ students occasionally trespass across farmland or buy a moped. And a large percentage of them haven’t been outside of the county boundaries. It is frequently a shock to many students that I live in a different county to them. (You drive here from Essex?!) They believe themselves to be independent, confident and streetwise young people. Which may well be the case down by the Co-op, but here in a place 2 hours from home, they looked anything but.

“Aren’t you coming on the rides with us?”

“No, no, you don’t want us with you! Go off and have fun!”

“Please miss…”

A short period of negotiation followed, resulting in me and my colleagues securing 45 mins to ourselves to go and refuel on coffee, cake and pizza (not in that order) before meeting some of the students to accompany them on some of the rides. I’m fairly indifferent about roller coasters; it doesn’t bother me if I spend the day in a cafe, but equally I’m happy to queue up for a few 30 seconds bursts of adrenalin. I did however, spend most of the time on the rides trying to remember that shouting ‘shit, shit, bugger, fuck’ would almost certainly get me some sort of formal warning and also trying not to look too ridiculous as the rides whizzed past the cameras. The last thing you want is a photo of you with your mouth wide open being circulated around the entire Year 11 cohort via Snapchat. I was partially successful on both counts.

By far, my favourite moment of the day occurred on the way home. My three reprobates climbed into the car after being 20 minutes late for our meet up before leaving, armed with enough fast food to survive the first week of a nuclear war. Once that had been consumed, make up re-done and the days phone pictures checked and compared, we finally left the heaviest of the traffic behind. And then, it suddenly dawned on me that the back of the car was very, very quiet. All driving mummies know that feeling. And I knew what I was going to see even before I checked my rear view mirror.

It turns out that after a long day in the fresh air, tired out sleeping teenagers look every bit as innocent and cute when asleep as my little one does. Thanks for letting me be your trip mummy girls.

September mummy

I suspect that I am not alone in the world of blogging, when after posting less than 5 times, I suddenly realised that weeks had gone by without me writing anything. I guess it’s like a lot of things that I have the best of intentions for; cooking a roast dinner on a Sunday, writing all my meetings on the calendar each half term, marking all my books once a fortnight (oh yes, that’s what my school’s marking policy says), dusting, that sort of thing. So, I finished up an entry that I had been working on and quickly posted it, making a mental note to try harder.

My excuse is that school is back. In a big way.

I went back to school after maternity leave in June, just for the last few weeks of term. And it was good. Year 11 had practically gone, I got a 50% timetable scraped together with odd lessons from other people, very little marking or planning to do, an all together easy slide back into the classroom.

September has not been like that. At all.

But this isn’t a blog about how hard the professional life of a teacher is (there are plenty out there though, it is a demanding profession). So instead of making excuses, I will list 10 mummy-type things I have had to do for my students since returning to work.

1. Convinced a Year 10 boy to pick up his rubbish and put it in a bin.
2. Removed a slug from a student’s desk which had hitched a ride in on her jacket.
3. Written down a series of phrases for a student to use when ringing up to enquire about a part time job vacancy.
4. Explained to a student that just because someone asks you to send them a naked picture of yourself, it doesn’t mean you can’t say no.
5. Said: “Jack, pick up Megan’s pencil case from the floor where you threw it and put it on the table. George, take the pencil case and return it to Megan’s desk where you took it from. Megan, if someone tries to take your equipment, let me know rather than running across the room and screaming like a banshee.”
6. Looked at a Year 11 girls’ tonsils and said “Umm, maybe a bit red?”
7. Offered a Year 9 a tissue. REPEATEDLY.
8. Suggested to a Year 10 boy that the roundabout by KFC might not be the best place for free running.
9. Said variations of “can’t you wait?/hold it for 10 minutes/you should have gone at break”.
10. Helped a student to learn her postcode off by heart.

I like to think I’ve made a difference.